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A Hectic Day at the N.Y. Baseball Races

Got up. Got motivated. Got going. Went to Reds-Padres game in Cincinnati. Watched Pete Rose get 4,192nd hit. Waited for game to end. Wrote down what Pete said. Wrote story. Left park. Two a.m.

Got up. Got aspirin. Got dressed. Went to Cincinnati airport, which for some reason happened to be in Kentucky. Got on plane. Got bad airline food, which is redundant. Eight a.m.

Got to New York. Got cab. Went to hotel. Room not ready. Got mad. Got cab. Got to Flushing. Which is proper noun, not verb. Waited for game at Shea Stadium to start. Eleven a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Got game-face on. Watched game between Mets and Cardinals. Good one. Mets had 6-0 lead after two innings. Cards came back. Tied game, 6-6, in top of ninth. Mets won, 7-6, in bottom of ninth. Mets in first place. Five p.m.

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Got on subway. Held strap. Went past La Cabana Argentina Restaurant. Went past St. Sebastian’s Bingo hall. Leered at woman in advertisement for King Cobra Malt Liquor. Arrived at Grand Central Station.

Got on different train. Held strap. Read sign asking passengers to give seats to handicapped and elderly. Saw neither. Sat down. Read ad for Long Aid Condisheen. (“Keeps Your Curl Up to 25% Longer.”) Read graffiti. Saw words that curled hair on back of neck. Got to South Bronx. Six-thirty p.m.

Got to Yankee Stadium. Watched game between Yanks and Blue Jays. Good one. Toronto led 3-0 and 4-1, but three-run homer by Ron Hassey brought Yankees back and brought stadium to life. The House That Hassey Built? Anyway, Yanks won, 7-5, before 52,141. Game-and-a-half out of first place.

This, fans, brought to an end a smorgasbord of baseball, a total pig-out, that permitted the witnessing of three complete games within 27 hours. Pete Rose passed Ty Cobb just in time to permit an escape to New York, where the four winningest teams in the majors were having a Day at the Races.

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Decades had gone by since two Big Apple ballclubs played home games on the same day while still involved in their respective pennant races. Even when such a rare event occurred in the early 1950s, the Yankees often were so far in front of their closest rivals that it wasn’t as though they truly were in a pennant race.

New Yorkers responded Thursday by turning out in large numbers. Not only did thousands of them commute from one contest to the other, but many wore the hottest new T-shirt in town: “New York Wants a Subway Series.”

There were 46,295 paid customers at Shea Stadium, and 50,453 total in the house, for an afternoon game that ended a series between the neck-and-neck leaders of the National League East. The Mets and St. Louis drew a total attendance of 149,106, making it the largest turnout for any three-game series at Shea since 1971.

And some series it was. All three games were decided by one run. The opener went to the Mets, 5-4, although they squandered a 5-0 lead. The second game went to the Cards, 1-0, with John Tudor outlasting Dwight Gooden by going 10 innings. Keith Hernandez of the Mets called Tudor “the best left-hander I have faced in my 11 1/2 years.”

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Then came Thursday’s game. St. Louis ace Joaquin Andujar stuck around just long enough to surrender seven hits and get four guys out. His exasperation was so complete that the Mets hit back-to-back- to-back doubles over the head of right fielder Andy Van Slyke, who was spinning like a weather vane.

St. Louis Manager Whitey Herzog said later that when his team fell behind by six runs in the second, “I was just about ready to pull all my regulars out of the game.” Instead, the Cardinals scored three times in the third, then pulled within 6-5, then tied it in the ninth on Willie McGee’s one-out home run off Jesse Orosco.

But the Mets rescued Orosco in their half of the ninth. Mookie Wilson reached on an infield hit, took second on Wally Backman’s bunt and scored on a single to left by Hernandez. It was the 22nd game-winning RBI of the season for Hernandez, tying the major league record owned by Harold Baines of the Chicago White Sox.

“It was a big win for us, because we’ve got to win at home,” Hernandez said. “The Cardinals have a lot of home games left. I can see this thing going down to the wire.”

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He and the other Mets also can see paying 90 cents for a subway token to the Bronx for the World Series. Rusty Staub said he, Hernandez and other Mets occasionally take the subway to the park. “Not me,” third baseman Howard Johnson said. “I might get killed.”

On Oct. 10, 1956, the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers met in the final game of the World Series. No two New York teams have met in the Series since then, but this could be the year. Or, there could be a West Coast freeway Series--Dodgers vs. Angels--or even a Missouri Interstate 70 Series--St. Louis vs. Kansas City.

The Yankees, probably the hottest team in baseball of late, won for the 12th time in 13 games with a rally that chased Toronto ace Dave Stieb. Backup catcher Hassey hit his 12th home run, an upper-deck job to right, off Dennis Lamp to put his team in front.

Good day for New York teams. Nearly midnight now. Enjoyed seeing three games. Very tired, though. Can’t write complete sentences. Please fill in verbs where needed.

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